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(10.) Ministries of Mercy—Getting Started

June 12, 2008

Overview: Every Christian family must develop its own ministry of mercy by looking at the needs closest to it and meeting them through loving deeds and a spirit of encouragement.

Channels of Mercy: The first “channel” of mercy is the family. The second is the local church. Both entities should develop their own ministries of mercy in their respective spheres, families in neighborhoods, churches in neighborhoods and communities. The third channel for Christian service is para-church associations or “mission societies”. A fourth is the state; Christians can use venues of those governments in which they participate as civil servants. This chapter is primarily about the family: how does a family being its own mercy ministry?

Family Mercy Ministry: Keller begins by thinking in concentric circles. Who’s the closest relationally to the family? Answer: family members. The second circle is the church; the third the neighborhood. A family’s mercy ministry should develop naturally, not according to a formal program. It should be comprised of the needs God has led you to, and that as you are purposefully looking for them.

Fears: For many families, stepping out to care for needs in their neighborhoods is a cause for fear because 1) we don’t know how to make contact (i.e., breaking the ice), and 2) we don’t think we have the resources to help (i.e., we’re afraid of failure).

Active Mercy: The first thing we must do is initiate contacts. Work and pray to turn “strangers into contacts, contacts into acquaintances, and acquaintances into friends.” Create these contacts both in your church and your neighborhood; Christians more than all men should be the epitomize social kindness and openness, for we should be the ones genuinely concerned about the welfare and lives of all around us. It’s no surprise when a pagan’s life is self-centered. It should be when a Christian’s is. So the Christian must build bridges. Systematically. Intentionally.

The Christian must also have a caring, encouraging stance. 1) We are controlled and compelled by the love of Christ, not guilt or fear. 2) We want to expose hurts and fears as we get to know people; a mere neighborly acquaintance is not the goal. Exposing the inner the thoughts and sins and ministering to their deepest needs is. This takes time. It takes energy. It takes love.

So here’s the tell-tale question: is your love for others active (i.e., seeking the lost) or only reactive?

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